Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The journey begins... the decision to adopt...

Our story begins before David and I ever met. You see, ever since I (Shana) was a little girl, I have had a desire in my heart to adopt a baby girl from China. At the time, it seemed impossible for me to ever have my own biological child due to my type 1 diabetes, so I excitedly looked forward to the blessing of adoption. God's plans are perfect though and in His ever-abounding grace, he allowed me to bear a son, our first miracle child, Micah David Reece, on January 17th, 2006. What a blessing he continues to be in our lives every day!

David and I agreed that we wouldn't begin conversations about "adding to our family" until after Micah's 1st birthday. At the beginning of the year, we began praying together and individually as to what God's plan for our family was.

But, let's back up the story just a little so God can receive the credit He deserves! Before meeting me, David had never considered adoption. And, frankly, before marrying David, we had long discussions about how at that time I was not comfortable promising him a biological child. We knew it was God's plan for us to marry, so we both went forward in faith knowing His love between us would carry us through the years.

Just ten months after our wedding, God softened my heart incredibly and gave me complete peace about trying to have a biological child (as only God could!). David had always had peace in that area but knew it was God's plan at that time when and we received confirmation after confirmation from friends, family members, pastors, doctors, and complete strangers! The next month, God confirmed our decision and we were pregnant!

The pregnancy was a full-time job, but a total blessing! God kept me safe (in fact, I am healthier now than pre-pregnancy) and He gave us a very healthy, active baby boy! I will never forget the moment though when we found out that we were going to have a boy... (besides my silly expectation that the whole world would stop turning, that blue balloons and confetti would fall from the ceiling at the ultrasound technician's words)... I remember having tears in my eyes and looking at David's own teary eyes and saying, "It's a boy!" My next words were, "God is confirming that we can adopt a baby girl!" David smiled and nodded in agreement in the awe of the moment!

Back to the "adoption story"... we knew that if it were God's will for us to have another biological child, He would carry me through another pregnancy. However, neither one of us felt that resounding peace we had before. Our prayers became more and more directed and in March, we began to receive very clear answers (that again, could only come from God!). The first weekend in March, I had traveled to Springfield with Micah to visit my family while David worked on Micah's 1st year video. On that visit, I waded through a bunch of old scholarship applications and essays I had written in high school. By re-reading them, I realized that God had given me so much more than I had ever dreamed of, a husband who truly loves the Lord and is my best friend, and our miracle baby boy... just top the list! Suddenly, I felt total peace that God's plan was for us to adopt, but that this was a decision that David must come to on his own. I couldn't pressure him into it. We had to agree totally. God could do just that...

A few days later, on March 8th, David lay in bed sick all day. With nothing else to do, he prayed constantly all day! God had been softening his heart towards adoption throughout our entire relationship, but that night, He made it clear to David that it was His will for our family. Trusting in what David felt God say to him, while I was showering that night, David went downstairs and wrote on a note: "March 8th, 2007 - Decision to adopt a baby girl from China". Then David went back upstairs and prayed one more prayer.

You see, in the Bible in the book of Judges, to be sure that Gideon understood God's promise to him, he laid out a piece of fleece and one day he asked God to make there be dew only on the fleece and all the ground around it dry. In the morning, he found it to be so. The next night, Gideon asked God to make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew. The next morning he found it to be so, and Gideon knew that God would do just as He had promised Him. David's final prayer, was similar to laying out his fleece. He prayed that he would know if it was truly God's plan and not his own desire by the initial reaction I would give to him upon hearing his decision. You see, we had not spoken about it directly for nearly a month and the last time we spoke I had told David that I was "open" to having another biological child. He truthfully did not know what my reaction would be.

At the same time David was praying this prayer, I was in the shower "talking with God". I clearly felt God saying that I needed to say to David, "Do you remember the first time God confirmed to us that we were to adopt" and then relate to him the time when we found out Micah was a boy. But, just a few days prior I had definitely heard God telling me NOT to bring up adoption, to let David lead on this and let God work on his heart alone. I took a LONG shower. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to tell David. That night I lay in bed SILENT. David too was SILENT.... not our normal routine. Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and said the words I felt God had led me to say. "David, do you remember the first time God confirmed to us that we were to adopt?" David was silent for a few seconds and then said, "What did you say?" I nearly beat myself up thinking... "He's not even listening... what am I doing... You told me to be quiet Lord, why did I speak?" But, David wanted me to repeat it for another reason. My words were the perfect answer to his prayer... more perfect than he had even prayed for. That night, David told me that he believed God wanted us to adopt a baby girl, from China. Through tears, tears of joy similar to those I shed when David proposed to me, we saw how God had moved us both to the same decision, at the same time.

Our decision to adopt was finalized... March 8th, 2007.


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The journey continues... paperwork!!!

Just four days after God confirmed to both of us our decision to adopt, we attended an informational meeting at Holt International Children's Services, Inc. in Portland. God quickly confirmed to us that we were to take this journey with this agency.

From their website: "Holt coordinated one of the first international adoptions from the People’s Republic of China... and continues today to significantly improve the opportunities for the abandoned children in China to have families. Holt’s orphanage “Baby Care Unit” and foster care programs have dramatically improved the care and health of abandoned children. Because of Holt’s commitment to integrity in adoption and extensive programs serving other homeless children in China, Holt has a strong, long-standing relationship with the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), the government agency that oversees every China adoption." Most importantly, the agency was aligned with out faith and our hearts!

Then began the paperwork!

I recall throughout the summer people asking us, "What's new?"... our answer... "Not much." Or, "What have you been up to?". Our answer, "Not much." You see, we had decided as a family to only include a very few people on the news of our plans. We wanted to treasure the decision in our hearts and then share our news once the paperwork had been completed and on it's way to China!

In reality this summer we were in the midst of a LOT of paperwork (as you can see from our timeline at the right)! It was indeed a journey, but as we prayed over each piece of paper as we filled it out and then went through three layers of notarization/certification (and I became a FedEx expert shipping documents all over the United States!), we saw God's hand throughout the process. When my own attempts at perfection failed, we were reminded that this can be a great challenge for even the most organized of folks! And, we were reminded that God's timing is perfect. So, any delay we may have encountered was due to God lining up our paperwork for the perfect child He has called to be a part of our family!


The "paperwork journey" began on April 3rd when Holt accepted us as one of their adoptive families and we began preparing for our homestudy. This "paperwork journey" will indeed continue until we bring our baby girl home, but on September 28th, 2007, our dossier (the name for the collective final adoption documents) was shipped to Beijing. It is currently being translated by Holt staff in China and will then be sent to the CCAA at which point we will receive our log-in date. Once we receive our log-in date, the waiting begins (although in our hearts, the waiting has indeed, already begun!). Essentially, we are in a long line of prospective adoptive parents waiting for baby girls to be given into our care. The current estimated wait to be matched with a child is 23 months from your log-in date. This could fluctuate throughout our wait. While the wait will be lengthy, we know God will give us comfort and patience and many memorable months to share with Micah!

How will we be matched? Our understanding is that once our log-in date is at the front of the line, all of the files of the parents in that group are gathered together with the files of the available babies. The matches then occur as photographs are reviewed for "family likenesses" and homestudies are analyzed for family similarities (a baby seems to respond to music = a family who enjoys music as a hobby). I often picture myself holding a tiny baby girl, but then I can't help but giggling thinking of the Chinese officials looking at David at 6'7" and myself at 5'10" and placing with us the largest baby girl ever to be adopted! Tee... hee... Once the matches are made, we will get a call from our social worker who will say "Are you sitting down?" and the very next day receive a photo of the prospective child, our baby, and her paperwork. It will then be another 7-9 weeks for travel arrangements to be made before we can officially have her in our arms. You can be sure that as we learn more about this next part of the journey we will send an update!


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Celebrations throughout the journey!!!

One piece of advice that our social worker reiterated to us several times was to celebrate each step in the journey. As a family, we took this to heart and have had a LOT OF FUN in doing so!

May 5th, 2007: Girl's Day Out! Tea Time at Ruthie B's

On May 5th, I shared an unforgettable Mother's Day Tea with my mom, grandma and aunt. We had already shared the news of the adoption with my mom, but this was to be a very special surprise for my grandma especially and, my mom didn't know that I had a couple other surprises for them all up my sleeve! :)

Here we are at Tea Time at Ruthie B's in Springfield, all decked out in our hats and sipping our tea! It was extra special in that I was able to reserve a room with a black and white motif that had all kinds of China Dolls and other Chinese decor. After we had picked out our hats and began enjoying our tea and our first course, I handed out the "Girl's Day Out" programs.

First on our agenda was "Story Time". We each took turns reading one page of a boardbook called "I Love You Like Crazy Cakes" and then passing it around for the next person to read. The rules of storytime, however, was that no one could ask ANY questions until story time was over. This was especially hard for my Aunt Debbie! :)

Here is Grandma reading. In short, it is a very sweet story about a woman who longs to have a daughter and adopts her precious baby in China. After story time, we obviously had a wonderful time talking about the journey that we were just beginning at that time!

It was then time for "The Name Game"... subtitled... "How well do you know your own name?". I had made up cards with each person's first, middle and last name on one side of the card and the meaning of each name on the back side. I'd show one card, and they would try to guess who's name it was based on the meaning. It was fun to make guesses and realize how special each of our names was!

Time for the surprises!!! On the agenda next was "Special Guest Appearance - Just who is that hiding under the blankie?". I had arranged with the ladies at the shop to bring over an antique white wicker crib with a baby doll wrapped in a pink blanket. So, as we were having dessert, and everyone was reading their Mother's Day cards I had given them, the ladies surprised us at just the perfect timing! We had a little one with us, and by the way they ALL reacted, you would have thought it was a real baby! They actually almost fought over who got to hold her the most!



So, just who was it? I had color coded the name cards and asked Grandma for the card that did not match her other two cards (Mae) and asked Mom to do the same (Michelle). I used those two cards and then added a third (Emma), to then tell these special ladies the name we felt God had led us to name our little girl. Emma Mei Michelle Reece. (See the column on the right for more information regarding the meaning of her name.) It was, indeed, a very special time for us all!

Finally, to end our wonderful time together, we searched the large antique selection that the Tea House encompassed until we found the perfect little tea set to share with Emma Mei one day. Thanks Mom for such a wonderful keepsake!

May 8th, 2007: Home study paperwork submitted to Holt International

This was a GREAT day! What Mom wouldn't love celebrating a big step like this on her birthday??? God gave me a very special gift this year, by lining this up on my birthday!



September 3rd, 2007: Celebration of I-600A Application Approval

What does this mean? It means that the United States Department of Homeland Security authorized that we can bring a child (our baby girl) into the United States. This is another major step in the process! We were actually in Seattle celebrating the Reece kids' birthdays, so David and I had an adventure together while Micah stayed with Grandma and Grandpa.

We ate authentic Dim Sum at the Imperial Garden... yummy! We were both quite adventuresome, but still opted for all "cooked" selections!

After our meal, we explored the Great Wall Mall in Kent, WA. In remembrance of this time we decided to purchase a heart-shaped "Lucky Bamboo" plant. It now sits on our fireplace mantel as a reminder of how blessed we will be to have this precious one in our family!

September 28th & 29th, 2007: Celebration of our dossier being shipped to China!

I am very blessed to me married to an extremely thoughtful husband. On Friday, September 28th, our dossier was shipped to China. That night, when David returned home from work, he brought with him a dozen beautiful roses. And, as though God was blessing his efforts, the name of the roses he found was "Emma"...

He also purchased a small Demdaco angel entitled "Celebration - In Joyful Anticipation". She now stands next to our special bamboo plant watching over it's growth and reminding us of our special angel to come!



On Saturday, we took an excursion to the Chinese Classical Garden in downtown Portland. It was a little chilly that day, but the rain held off as we explored the beautiful serene spot in the midst of the busy city! Micah's favorite part by far were the beautiful Koi ponds!






We look forward to learning more about the beautiful Chinese culture and adding Chinese traditions and experiences to our family's lives. God created us all so uniquely and put so much beauty upon this earth! We can't wait to explore the new land that He is calling us to be a part of through the miracle of adoption!

5 comments:

  1. Wow... Great job and thanks for laying out the events. What at great adventure for you and all of us.

    Love to you all.

    Auntie Doe Doe

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  2. How wonderful; How marvelous is our love for Him! Praise God for doing this in your lives. Emma Mei is such a sweet name. Congratulations and thank you for sharing all these events with your family and friends. We can hardly wait for her arrival!!
    Blessings to you all,
    Jim and LeAnn Kinnee

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  3. What a wonderful story. I was adopted from Holt almost 32 years ago now..I'd love to get together with you guys and share my wonderful experiences with you! Plus, Dannie lived in China for 2 years so we can share about all that wonderful country with you, too! :) Connie & Dannie

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  4. Shana,

    I am glad I was persistent in getting in to your blog. What a wonderful amazing story. What a blessing that you shared it with us. Bill and I hope to adopt someday as well. All in God's time!! We will keep praying for you guys and for little Emma Mei. I love that name, we have thought of the name Emma for a little girl if we have one.

    Love,
    Bill & Leslie

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  5. Thank you for this beautiful narrative of faith. I feel blessed and encouraged just by reading it. You will have a wonderful story to tell Emma Mei! You are all in my prayers.

    Blessings,
    Rebecca

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